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Ch 43 - The Queen

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Gretch didn't have any talismans or tokens to give Rhianna this time, but she'd taken Rhianna aside and told her, "We love you Rhianna. We want you to come back in one piece. I plan on giving you the grand tour of your new school in the fall and hanging out at the Soda Shoppe together, and a million other things. Don't go messing up my plans."

Nothing Gretch had given her before, had as powerful effect on her. She walked at Kasubia's side for at least a quarter of an hour with her head high and her heart singing a valiant war song. But as she went the forest grew darker and her shoulders stooped a little bit with each step.

She really had no idea how she was going to stop Grayson. The last time he had been stopped, the entire land of Fairy had been cut off from the human world, trapping people on either side. Is that what it was going to take? How many others would suffer to keep Grayson from running amok in the human world?

Kasubia nudged her.

"I'm okay Kasubia. I just don't know what I am going to do." Rhianna raised a hand and petted the horse reassuringly.

Kasubia halted on the path. Ride.

Rhianna slowly shook her head, remembering all those times her mom had freaked out around horses. But it was her mother's fear not her's.

Kasubia bent a knee and then settled to the ground gracefully to allow for easy mounting. There were no excuses left.

She secured her backpack firmly by putting both arms through the straps and swung her leg over. Kasubia clambered to her feet, seeming less graceful now that Rhianna was hanging on for dear life as she swayed one way and then the next with each movement the horse made.

Finally the movement stopped and Kasubia turned her head to look at her.

Breathe.

Rhianna let the breath she'd been holding explode out of her, and at the same time Kasubia bolted like a racehorse at a starter pistol.

At first she clutched mane and prayed that she wouldn't just bounce bodily off the horse's back. But as the wind rushed by—much faster than she thought it should, she remembered riding the swan, and on the back of Grayson's motorcycle before she knew what he was.

She felt the same feeling. Freedom.

Her mind relaxed, and then her muscles. All of her worries were soothed away, and she felt Kasubia's movements as if they were her own.

There was something else too. Trust. In Kasubia. In herself. She trusted that she would not fall, and Kasubia would not let her fall.

In no time at all, they emerged from the forest and rode through the meadow to the line of choke cherry trees.

At first she saw no sign of the darklings. Maybe this barrier of trees would be enough to contain them and Grayson with them. But as Kasubia hiked up a small hillock and came to a rest, she could see over the tops of the trees. Trees in the middle of the copse were shaking and swaying, and the movement was coming closer. As she paused to listen she could hear snaps and cracks like a crew of bulldozers were slowly leveling a forest.

Rhianna hugged her arms around Kasubia's neck, soaking up a bit more of the good vibes. Then she swung down to the ground and stood with her hands on her hips surveying her chosen battleground.

At least she has some time to come up with a plan.

Before she could even come up with a list of bad and worse options, something changed. She squinted her eyes and saw a human figure standing before the forest. He transformed into a black horse and trotted toward them.

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